A meteor shower brings with it a clutch of giant, deadly bugs and something even bigger that nests in a Japanese building. With the military struggling to contain the threat and scientists foreseeing a spread of the creatures, Gamera returns to deal with the invasion in his familiarly destructive way. With the numerous insects of the eponymous Legion combining to combat Gamera, can our heroic kaiju save the day this time?
Surprisingly dark and bloody in a few moments, Attack of Legion gives us – unbelievably – the first entirely original Gamera antagonists since 1971! Like its immediate predecessor, Gamera: Guardian of the Universe, Gamera 2: Attack of Legion takes a far more serious approach to its kaiju action than the films of the Showa Era. It’s a very well made film and the practical nature of the creatures gives it a pleasingly old school feel, but there are definitely scenes where a more modern approach wouldn’t have gone amiss. The charm of the rubber puppets and men in suits is undeniable but it’s still a bit of a shame when the rest of the production feels so modern. Admittedly, movie CGI in the mid-90s was often below par, but when used sparingly it could yield great results. It is used in a tiny fraction of the creature effects shots in Gamera 2 – and even then does show weaknesses – but the practical effects don’t always work perfectly either.
As with 1995’s Gamera: Guardian of the Universe, Gamera 2 features another great build-up to Gamera’s first appearance – though he’s mentioned throughout, it’s still a full half an hour before we actually see him. He’s not the all powerful giant turtle we may be used to seeing by now either, with the smaller, bug-like creatures – that make up the eponymous Legion – quickly swarming and overwhelming him in an effectively creepy sequence.
The Legion in their various forms are really well designed – and it’s really refreshing to have new antagonists. There’s some delightfully icky, squishy gore effects in their fights against Gamera too.
Another returning character, Atagi – a human girl who has a psychic bond with Gamera – also features, though feels quite inconsequential and only seems to be here to deliver a few pieces of Gamera-related exposition.
The climax of the final battle feels a bit too much like a deus ex machina unfortunately – and the goodbye from humanity to Gamera is extremely cheesy, military salutes and all. It’s at odds with the tone established in the beginning, as is the jaunty guitar-led closing song, which is similar to the odd choice of song at the end of Gamera: Guardian of the Universe (I suspect this was a licensed pop promo, similar to the ones we have in Western blockbusters).
Gamera 2 isn’t a complete loss though; when the dark tone works, as with its predecessor, it’s an effective film – well made, nicely shot and with some impressive creature effects at times. Where it falters is in its over-reliance on practical effects and again, with some odd choices that do hamper the more serious tone that the filmmakers are going for.
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